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At play in the ‘neutral sandbox’: Palvetzian has her finger on the pulse of the GTA

Written by Todd Devlin, MA’09
Published in the Winter 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette

No two days are the same for Sevaun Palvetzian, BA’98, MA’99. But one thing remains constant for the CivicAction CEO – her team’s optimism and drive to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

“I work with the best team in the business,” said Palvetzian, who was named CEO of CivicAction in January 2014. “These are people who share a common goal of making our city and our region better. You can’t help but have a positive outlook in a role like this.”

Launched in 2002, CivicAction brings together senior executives and emerging leaders from all sectors – government, business, labour, community organizations and academia – to take action on major social, economic and environmental challenges facing the region of about 6.5 million people.
Palvetzian says the group prides itself on being a ‘neutral sandbox’ where all parties work collectively.

“You need places where you can leave your sectoral baggage at the door and have good, engaging, meaningful conversations,” she said. “We’re non-partisan; no one sits at the head of the table. We care about the issues getting solved.”

Landing at CivicAction was a natural evolution for Palvetzian after spending a decade working in provincial government. But that evolution, the Torontonian says, goes back even further – to her first stint at Western.


In 2014, the opportunity came up for her to take the reins at CivicAction. Formerly known as the Toronto City Summit Alliance, the group is both highly connected and respected by city leaders. Toronto Mayor John Tory chaired the organization’s board from 2010-14.

“I loved that (CivicAction) was an organization that sits where the sectors converge to do city-building – in an action-filled way,” Palvetzian said. “We put our finger on the pulse of urban issues that need attention, and we bring together leaders from all sectors to do something about them.”

With all the projects on the go, including grooming the next generation of ‘emerging leaders,’ Palvetzian shifts gears throughout the day while managing her staff of 13.

“It’s really been a great place to draw upon so many different parts of my professional experiences and academic experiences,” she said. “They all come together in one wonderful petri dish.”

Read the full article here